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Scenofest is one of the most visible aspects of OISTAT's enhanced programming during the 2007 Prague Quadrennial. At left are participants in the puppet workshop held as part of Scenofest.

Photo/R. Finklestein

by Leon I. Brauner


The State of OISTAT:
Small Congress - 2007
Prague, Czech Republic

For the past four OISTAT Congresses, Leon I. Brauner has prepared and delivered the state of the organization address. The idea was that such a position or speech should be given as a statement of the Executive Committee apart from a presidential statement. Mr. Brauner is a Past President of USITT. He is a member of OISTAT's Governing Board, Executive Committee/Centres. His address follows.

Welcome to the 2007 OISTAT Small Congress - but, not too small. In fact, if we think about the idea of a Small Congress for a moment, we can begin to see how OISTAT has expanded and taken on new tasks, made new friends, and become a conspicuous partner at the 2007 Prague Quadrennial.

For a number of years, the OISTAT meeting that was held at the time of the PQ was smaller. It was the meeting in between the meetings at which officers and executive committee members were elected (the large Congress). In addition, we were guests of the PQ. We were, in fact, a small group of people getting together at the site of the PQ -- we were a small congress.

This is hardly the case any more. While we used to provide a more passive partnership with the PQ organizers, in the past few editions of PQ we have undertaken a new role - that of active partners. OISTAT, through its commissions, members, and secretariat, produces the Architecture Competition, and the Scenofest, and works hard to encourage and further develop the student exhibition. OISTAT's presence at PQ is now more vital than ever before. While we may still refer to today's event as a small congress, it is anything but that. Welcome to the 2007 OISTAT Congress.

This Congress also marks OISTAT's 40th anniversary. I don't know about you, but remembering the late 1960s and my brightly colored shirts, tight jeans with wide hems, dark shoulder length hair, and beard does nothing but bring a smile to my face. I could not wait to begin taking on the roles I saw my grey-haired -- much older -- colleagues playing. Well, now we are them.

As I look around, I see lots of hair colors, ages, and experiences, and many of you are willing and ready to take on roles in this revitalized organization. That is to say, we should be pleased that OISTAT is made up of those who have historic memory, and those developing it -- old (but young at heart) and young and energetic. We are an organization that must always be growing and regenerating itself. We -- all of us -- are OISTAT.

During the past two years, not only has our membership grown in numbers, but our realm of influence has expanded. OISTAT Individual members come from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, and Venezuela. In addition, we have Associate Members from educational institutions in Russia, United States (five), and Austria, plus commercial firms whose work supports theatre, in Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United States (two), the Netherlands, and Sweden (nine countries).

We now have OISTAT Centres active in 32 countries. And, an OISTAT presence, whether through a Centre, an individual member, or an Associate Member organization, in 49 countries. In all likelihood, during the course of this Congress, we shall accept membership applications that will move us over the 50 mark.

OISTAT has been a significant force in world theatre during the past 40 years. Its strength and ability to maintain its value to world theatre and those of us working in theatre is that the organization's strength lies in the sum of its parts -- its members and Centres.

As OISTAT grows larger and its global reach is greater, it begins to have the growing pains of all multinational organizations, and the number one pain is usually communication. During the past two years, OISTAT has set about the task of creating a new and vital secretariat. The OISTAT Secretariat is located in Taipei City, Taiwan, Republic of China. The new director, Wei-Wen Chang, has assembled a staff to undertake the task of gathering information from its members and developing a strategic communication center. The Taiwan government now recognizes OISTAT as an NGO, and provides a yearly subsidy for the operation of the office. So OISTAT is no longer a homeless organization. Our home's front door is as far away as your computer keyboard, screen, or telephone.

The Secretariat has set about the task of being a strong and involved communication hub. Not only is communication between the Secretariat and the Commissions, Working Groups, Centres, and Individual and Associate members getting better, but the communication between members and those working on projects or those involved in the organization's work is getting better. The strength of the organization is truly in its ability to talk, share, and communicate among and across its network of members.

One communication tool is the OISTAT website (here). It now has a new "look," but more importantly, it provides a connection to all. It provides access to current information about the work of the organization and who makes up the organization. In other words, if the value of the organization is in its parts, the parts are now readily available.

The Secretariat is also busy making contacts with sister organizations throughout the world. While it is important for us to be able to effectively communicate with each other, it is also important for OISTAT to be in touch with organizations that have similar objectives and missions. Our realm of influence is made significantly more effective when we develop solid relationships with like organizations.

If you know of any organization that OISTAT should contact and develop a relationship with, please provide Ms. Chang or President Michael Ramsaur with information about the organization.

The new Secretariat also has been able to offer support to Commissions, Working Groups, and projects in need of office and organizational assistance.

And last, but certainly not least, three of the most highly visible OISTAT international projects have been successfully brought to fruition.

Scenofest, a project of the OISTAT Education Commission, has grown into a "thing of beauty," much to be admired -- and much to be experienced. We owe our Scenofest colleagues Marina Raytchinova, chair of the OISTAT Education Commission; Sean Crowley, Scenofest Project Leader; and the extraordinary team of Scenofest makers and doers our sincere thanks and great appreciation.

The drawings, models, and project documents seen in the Architectural Competition are once again one of the gems of PQ. This significant and very impressive international competition is the work of the OISTAT Architecture Commission, under the chairmanship of Reinhold Daberto. The Competition administrators Mr. Daberto and Tim Foster worked with a jury of five architects who reviewed 159 projects from 28 countries. After three rounds of review, the final 12 projects were selected. We owe our colleagues our sincerest appreciation for their hard work and dedication to this significant project.

While the 2005 World Stage Design exhibition is but a sweet memory, SungChul Kim and his colleagues at the Korean OISTAT Centre are busily creating the second edition of this new event. I am sure you have heard the same phrase I have heard during my years as a costume designer. "I am sorry, but I am just too busy." USITT, Eric Fielding, and a whole host of USITT officers and members, as well as CITT member Peter McKinnon and his colleagues, were busy but not so busy that they couldn't produce this stellar international exhibition -- World Stage Design 2005. This major event was cosponsored by OISTAT and developed with the belief that, in the future, it could be exhibited at the site of the OISTAT World Congress. The next OISTAT World Congress and World Stage Design will be hosted by the Korean OISTAT Centre in Seoul, Korea in 2009. Where will it be in 2013?

A new honorific opportunity fostered by the OISTAT Scenography Commission and supported by OISTAT is the Honorary Scenographers. Mr. Kim, as chair of the Scenography Commission, has worked with the OISTAT Centres and PQ participants to develop this new way of honoring our great scenographers. These 22 scenographer/stage designers from 16 countries will be honored by OISTAT during the proceedings of this 2007 PQ. In addition, the work of these imminent designers is available on CD at the OISTAT desk or from Mr. Kim.

One of OISTAT's contributions to world theatre has been the various editions of Theatre Words. During the past few years, OISTAT has received an Arabic translation that will eventually expand the usefulness of New Theatre Words. In addition, the dwindling supply of New Theatre Words is ready for a new printing and/or web production. While we know there is a need, the production of more copies and/or a web edition is still in the works, and should be accomplished in the next two years. But I am pleased to be able to tell you that OISTAT has published Jean Guy Lecat's monograph, One Show, One Audience, One Single Space. This extraordinary new work has both Mr. Lecat and Mr. McKinnon to thank for its publication. Congratulations!

The Commissions, working groups, and projects are in various states of activity or reformation. Since the last Congress in Toronto, the Technology Commission elected a new chair, Ivo Kersmaekers of the Belgian Centre; the Scenography Commission elected Mr. Kim as chair through the opening of the 2009 World Stage Design Exhibition and World Congress; and Reija Hirvikoski from the Finnish OISTAT Centre was elected to chair the Scenography Commission from 2009 through the PQ in 2011. The History and Theory Commission created an interim board to act on behalf of the Commission. The board is peopled by Lilja Blumenfeld of the Estonian Centre, Kate Burnett of the British Centre, and In Jun Kim of the Korean Centre. The Publications and Communications Commission elected Eric de Ruijter of the Dutch Centre as its new chair. Once again there is evidence of the organization's vitality as Commissions elect many young leaders with creative minds and new voices.

Since the last World Congress, there have been Commission or EC/GB meetings held in United Kingdom, Taiwan, Belgium, United States of America, Korea, Israel, Japan, Serbia, and Canada. We wish to thank members and Centres in those countries. OISTAT's service to its members is accomplished through these partnerships and the generous support of its Centres. Hosting Commission and business meetings helps OISTAT fulfill its mandate to create forums in which its members can share and network.

Most of our work as theatre practitioners is focused on the work that is at hand or ahead of us. We usually don't take too much time looking at the past. Our quick look at the past two years should help us see that we (OISTAT, because we are OISTAT) is accomplishing good works and providing opportunities for our members to share, discuss, exhibit, empower, and work together to strengthen our work and our profession.

Forty years ago OISTAT set about to open borders where borders were closed. It accomplished its mission. Today we are trying to open new borders, create new networks, and provide our members with the forums necessary to grow in our work and our professions.

Here's to 40 more years of OISTAT!

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